In December 2012, I added this quote to this picture. It was during the days following the shooting in Newtown, CT, in which 20 children and 6 adults were murdered in their elementary school. In the years since, I’ve shared it again and again . . .

And now, again. Like many of you, I am shocked at and angry about the shootings in El Paso, TX, and Dayton, OH. I’m also quite sad. I’m again avoiding news coverage, not wanting to relive what has become a routine in our lives: the shooting, the questions, the finger pointing, the stories of the victims and the heroes, the candlelight vigils, the “hashtag strong” t-shirts, the inaction.

Instead, I go out to the garden and weed so I can contemplate and think — but this time, there was only so much weeding I could do. Somewhere during that weeding time, I thought of this photo — and in the wake of El Paso and Dayton and the recent passing of Toni Morrison, the author of the quote, the photo seemed sadly appropriate.

I wish you all peace and comfort during these sad and maddening times.

Son Of Seed Mustache From Space

A long time ago— May, actually — in a galaxy far, far away— just outside of the front door — an alien-looking seed mustache from space appeared on the tip of a desert rose branch. That was the general gist of an earlier post — but after a couple of months, my sci-fi fantasy that is South Florida gardening has become, “Captain, the pod doors have opened.”

To learn more about desert rose seed harvesting, I turned to YouTube and discovered gardeners in India. All recommended for the seedpod to remain on the plant until it turned brown and split open. Some suggested wrapping twine around the pod to prevent seeds from escaping after the split, while others just kept a close eye for any changes to the pod. That’s what I decided to do.

After the original post, I examined the seedpod on a daily basis. The vibrant green color dulled a bit, but there wasn’t a split. All in good time, I kept telling myself — and one morning, there it was. The pod had aged. It had browned. Both handles of the seed mustache had split open.

The YouTubers then recommended that I remove the entire seedpod and place it in a plastic container or a paper bag — and then to keep that in a dry place for a few days. After cutting the pod from the plant, I lowered it into a paper bag, brought it into the house, and waited.

Within a few days, seeds emerged from the pod.

Looking more like a fly-fishing lure, each seed had a hard center with flaxen-colored, silky hairs on the ends to carry it on the wind — and that’s the reason some YouTubers wrap twine around the pod. With the slightest breeze, valuable seeds could sail away.

Following the experts’ advice, I cleaned the seeds by removing the hairy parachutes.

At this point, I treated the seeds as I would any other seed I planted. To begin, I supplemented the medium with more vermiculite to help with drainage. Desert rose is a succulent and too much water can kill a plant. I then covered the seeds with a light layer of soil.

One of the many things I’ve noticed about Florida gardening is that seeds seem to germinate quickly. I think it has to do with 24-hour heat, especially during the summer months. Two days after planting, one seed sprouted and unfurled its cotyledons, its first leaves. In the days that followed, more emerged.

All in all, 12 of the 16 seeds germinated — and I have to admit, I think these seedlings are the cutest seedlings I’ve ever seen. Thick and squat, they remind me of the trees in a “Flintstones” cartoon.

Once each tender plant had a set of true leaves, I used a popsicle stick to ease them from the communal pot.

Holding each plant by its first leaves, I repotted each one into its own home.

Now that my close encounter with the Seed Mustache From Space has come to an end, I’m a bit relieved that it went so well, that it was really just an earthly seedpod and not some alien invader. Otherwise, I could have ended up like the Kevin McCarthy character in the sci-fi classic Invasion of the Body Snatchers:

Instead, I’m thinking of the adventure and wonder that gardening is and the excitement of trying something new and learning along the way. To paraphrase from “Star Trek,” one of my favorite sci-fi series, I can honestly say, “I’ve boldly gardened where I’ve never gone before.”

Bloomin’ Update 62: The Glorious Gloriosa Lily

I’ve become a little bit obsessed with the Gloriosa Lily ever since I spotted it casually rambling over my friend Neil’s shrubs. The vining plant was so intertwined with the neighboring plants that it looked as if its exotic flowers were part of the shrubs. On top of that, the flowers last a very long time when cut and placed in a vase. Even the cut buds eventually open!

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